Evidence shows Lauren Dickason was not of sound mind the night of killings, experts say

The Dickason home on Queen Street in Timaru, New Zealand where Lauren Dickason killed her three children on the night of September 16, 2021. Picture: Googlemaps

The Dickason home on Queen Street in Timaru, New Zealand where Lauren Dickason killed her three children on the night of September 16, 2021. Picture: Googlemaps

Published Aug 8, 2023


Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers

Two psychiatrists, one a clinical and the other a forensic, have ruled that murder-accused Lauren Dickason was highly depressed and incapable of knowing her actions on the night she killed her three daughters, were morally wrong.

According to evidence given before the High Court in Christchurch, New Zealand, both Doctors Susan Hatters-Friedman and Justin Barry-Walsh concluded that Lauren’s depression led to her making the fatal decision the night of September 16, 2021, the NZ Herald’s Anna Leask reported.

Barry-Walsh and Hatters-Friedman explained that Lauren could not have known her decision was morally wrong and believed she was saving the children by killing them.

By this, the two expert witnesses have supported with evidence, to an extent, the defence’s argument of insanity.

Lauren Dickason admitted to killing her children, Lianè, 6, and two-year-old twins, Maya and Karla, but pleaded not guilty, saying she was mentally unstable at the time of the incident.

Police close-off the Dickason home as forensic teams collect evidence. Picture: Screenshot

Barry-Walsh, the forensic psychiatrist, was the latest to testify, who said there was not enough evidence to support the prosecution’s argument that Lauren Dickason killed her children out of anger and partner revenge.

Walsh interviewed Lauren on October 10, 2021.

Lauren told Barry-Walsh “the biggest mistake” was moving to New Zealand, the court heard.

After interviewing Lauren, it was indicative that she thought the children were still better off dead, Barry-Walsh told the court. During their interview, Lauren recalled feeling paralysed, he said.

“There is not enough evidence of the extraordinary level of anger required to act in such a way.

"She didn’t just lash out ... in an appalling methodical way, she killed all three (children). This woman was depressed and she was getting more depressed and as she got more depressed she got to a position where she could not see any way of going on.

“In my view, it was more than likely - because of her depression - that she acted in the way that she did,” Barry-Walsh was quoted as saying in the Nz Herald.

Dr Hatters-Friedman, an expert prenatal psychiatrist, who also testified for the defence, told the court Lauren suffered from post-partum depression, in addition to the depression and anxiety she suffered from before giving birth to her eldest, Lianè.

During their time together, Hatters-Friedman said Lauren’s last words to the children were: “Mummy is very sick and going to die. I can’t leave you behind because I don’t know who’s going to look after you”.

The expert witness also concluded that Lauren suffered a major depressive episode the day of the killings and was viewing the world through her depressed psychotic state.

Both these witnesses supported the argument of insanity as a reason for not being guilty of the triple murder, but the prosecution's witness Dr Erik Monasterio, claimed Lauren did not suffer from post-partum depression and knew what she was doing.

In New Zealand, the criminal justice system allows for a child to be up until the age of 10 for the argument of infanticide to be used in court, whereas other countries allowed such a defence argument up until the child is one.

But the defence may not have been successful in showing evidence of Lauren’s insanity, just yet. During cross-examination, prosecutor Andrew McRae asked Barry-Walsh if the accused killer had told him about the internet searches she made on how to overdose children.

Barry-Wlash said Lauren did not tell him.

McRae noted that Barry-Walsh didn’t include the comments Lauren made during the police interview on September 17, 2021 about Karla being “horrible” to her lately, which is why she “did her first”.

“You didn’t include that?” McRae asked.

“No,” Barry-Walsh replied.

McRae made the indication that Barry-walsh left out key parts of Lauren’s behaviour to avoid showing that Lauren had anger and resentment, at times, for her children.

Over the last three weeks the court heard extensively about Lauren’s upbringing, teenage depression, her gruelling journey to fertility, which included 17 rounds of IVF and one infant death at 22 weeks gestation, Sarah, and her history on prescription medication to help her function as an adult and parent.

The court also heard about the dynamics of Lauren and husband Graham’s relationship. Graham was adamant the family move to New Zealand to get away from their troubles in South Africa.

It also heard how Lauren’s mother, Wendy Fawkes, was against the family moving to New Zealand, as the comfort of home offered a much needed emotional and physical support structure for Lauren.

It is also understood that the three murdered daughters were buried in South Africa.

The trial will resume on Wednesday.


Are you or someone you know affected by mental health? If so here are some important numbers:

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group's 24-hour mental health helpline: 080-045-6789.

The SA Federation for Mental Health: 011-781-1852.